The undefeated New England Patriots will face their toughest test of the season when they pay a visit to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. Despite being on the road, the Patriots are still 3.5-point favorites. There is also an over/under of 45.5 points.
New England is 8-0 on the season, including a 4-0 record on the road. However, that perfect record comes with the caveat that seven of the eight teams they’ve beaten have losing records. That includes a win over the winless Dolphins, two wins over the one-win Jets, and one over the one-win Redskins. The only team the Patriots have beaten that has a winning record are the Bills, and that was a game in which New England was outplayed.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have shaken off back-to-back losses in late September and have won three in a row, getting them to 5-2 on the season. Baltimore’s most recent win before last week’s bye was perhaps its most impressive of the season. The Ravens beat the Seahawks in Seattle 30-16 with Lamar Jackson rushing for over 100 yards and the Baltimore defense keeping Russell Wilson in check.
Just Run It
It’s no secret to anyone in the NFL that the Ravens strive to win games on the ground. Baltimore averages over 200 yards rushing per game, more than any other team in the NFL. Obviously, the athleticism of quarterback Lamar Jackson plays a big role in this. However, the Ravens also have a pair of quality running backs in Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards that help give them the most potent rushing attack in the league.
Of course, based on the numbers, the Patriots have the best defense in the NFL, as they give up less than eight points per game. But some of that is a byproduct of playing such a weak schedule. Last week, the Patriots looked vulnerable against the run, allowing the Browns to run for over 150 yards while Nick Chubb averaged over six yards per carry. That could indicate a potential weakness for the New England defense that allows the Ravens to stick to what they do best and run the ball effectively against the Patriots.
Behind Tom Brady, the New England offense has functioned like a well-oiled machine for much of the season. However, the Patriots are far from perfect, especially for a team that’s played seven of their eight games against losing teams. Even against such a weak schedule, the Patriots are barely averaging three yards per carry on the ground. That doesn’t matter as much with Brady at quarterback, but it’s something to watch with New England set to face tougher competition in the weeks ahead.
The Baltimore defense will be hoping to replicate the performance of the Buffalo defense against the Patriots earlier this season. In that game, Brady was held without a touchdown pass and completed less than 50 percent of his passes. In fact, New England’s only touchdown came on special teams. The Ravens can only hope that their defense can pose a similar challenge for Brady and company.
Let It Roll
This may be New England’s biggest test of the season to date, but they should be up for it. While the Ravens will pose some problems for the Patriots, New England can do the same and force Jackson to beat them with his arm, which isn’t always a winning formula for Baltimore. The Patriots may not dominate the game, but they’re still the better team. Bet on New England to win and cover against Baltimore.